The 1955 car movie ‘The Fast and the Furious’
The Fast and the Furious is a great movie title — so great, in fact, that filmmakers have been using it for a hundred years. According to IMDb, eight films called Fast and Furious or The Fast and the Furious were produced between 1915 and 1955, decades before Vin Diesel and Paul Walker first revved their engines. Many of those earlier films have been lost to history, and not all of them involved car races. But three of them are now available to watch on DVD or stream online. In anticipation of Furious 7, here’s a viewing guide to Hollywood’s original Fast and Furious films.
The Fast and the Furious (1955)
The story: A falsely accused fugitive (John Ireland) kidnaps a rich blonde (Dorothy Malone) in order to enter her Jaguar in a drag race and sneak across the Mexican border.
The scoop: The years after World War II saw a boom in cheap movies about fast cars. Shot in nine days, The Fast and the Furious is held in higher esteem than most “hot-rod films,” largely because it helped launch the career of future B-movie king Roger Corman (who was a producer and second-unit director). The cast is no small potatoes, either: Malone was just a few years away from winning an Oscar for Written on the Wind, and Ireland (who also directed the film) had an Oscar nomination under his belt for All the King’s Men.
The Fast and Furious connection: Director Rob Cohen had to purchase the title rights from Corman in order to release his 2001 film. Cohen’s movie was not a remake, but they both feature car-obsessed lovers fleeing from the law.
Where to watch: The movie is streaming on Amazon and available on DVD. Watch an excerpt above.
Fast and Furious (1939)
The story: Married rare book dealers Joel and Gerda Sloane (Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern) find themselves playing detective when a murder disturbs their seaside vacation.
The scoop: One of the few non-musicals directed by the legendary Busby Berkeley, Fast and Furious was intended to capitalize on the success of The Thin Man, another MGM comedy about married sleuths. Three films about the Sloanes were released between 1938 and 1939, each one featuring different actors in the lead roles (the most notable of whom is Rosalind Russell).
The Fast and Furious connection: This one has nothing to do with cars, but the three movies about the Sloanes did become their own franchise, each with “fast” in the title: Fast Company, Fast and Loose, and Fast and Furious.
Where to watch: All three Fast films are available as a DVD triple feature from the Warner Archive. Watch the original trailer above.
Fast and Furious (1924)
The story: A general store employee (Lige Conley) experiences a series of mishaps as he tries to make pancakes, sell shoes, and finally, catch a band of robbers.
The scoop: This one-reel silent comedy is best remembered for its second half, a madcap car-and-train chase that was excerpted in the 1980 documentary series Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film. Conley was a minor film star who had previously appeared in movies with silent comedy legend Harold Lloyd.
The Fast and Furious connection: This film shares the later movies’ affinity for fast-moving car and train stunts. Eerily, Conley died in a car accident in 1937.
Where to watch: The full movie is available on YouTube with a new organ score by Ben Model. Watch it above.
Photo credit: Everett Collection